Hello! My name is Eleanor Brimmer, I am a SmartPak user and Grade III para-dressage rider. I am blogging for SmartPak to share my experiences at the 2013 National Para-Dressage Training Symposium. Thursday was the second day of the symposium, we didn’t have any lectures at the hotel today, but instead headed straight out to the horses at Carlise Academy. The morning session was being run by Hanneke Gerritsen, a para-dressage FEI five star judge. One rider from each of the five grades was selected to ride thorough their team test. I was able to watch the 1A rider, Laura Goldman on a borrowed horse, and catch a little bit of Sydney Collier’s 1B rider on her own horse Wentworth.
I missed the grade two ride because I had to get ready to ride the grade three demo. During the whole symposium I will be riding Captiva, Cyndy West’s fourth level Lippizaner mare. This was my first time riding her, and we had to go do our warm up, then put together a test that is about equivalent to second level in front of a Paralympic judge, so no pressure there! I was tense going into this so my muscle spasticity flared up. Captiva and I were able to perform the test and get the beginnings of some language together, but I was really looking forward to my afternoon session with Catherine Haddad Staller so I could really get down to some nitty-gritty training work.
After all of the grades had performed team test demos, Catherine gave a lecture over lunch on training the walk. Riders that are grade two and lower do the majority of their work, or the case of the 1As entirely, in walk. So knowing how to show your best walk, and hopefully improving the horse’s walk is of the utmost importance. Catherine said ideally the goal should be that the horse has a “sexy” walk. She had the demonstration riders work on having a good forward rhythm in the walk and a soft round connection. She said that with a good walk the rider should almost disappear to the judge. Catherine also noted that because the riders are showing tests with fewer movements it is important to plan your test riding and really understand what is going to be judged where.
In the afternoon I floated between Clive Milkins lower grade lessons and Catherine Haddad Staller’s upper grade lessons until it came time for my own ride. Catherine zeroed in on a tension in my arms. She had me place my hands high, as to prevent any downward motion in an attempt to improve the connection with Captiva. She also wanted me to really move my elbows forward and keep my arms very soft, even limp. She also got after me to sit further back, a typical position issue for me. While the height and forwardness of my hands felt very counterintuitive, it certainly was effective. I am excited about the progress I made today and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!
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